What Causes Shingles?
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What Causes Shingles?

The medical name for shingles is Herpes Zoster; it is a contagious viral disease that is commonly associated with the childhood disease, chicken pox. Shingles is very annoying and can be extremely painful. Shingles develops into rash type eruptions and then they usually continue on to develop into blisters.

The medical name for shingles is Herpes zoster; it is a contagious viral disease that is commonly associated with the childhood disease, chicken pox. Shingles is very annoying and can be extremely painful. Shingles develops into rash type eruptions and then they usually continue on to develop into blisters. Shingles is more likely to affect the elderly; while it is usually painful, it is usually temporary. The disease may last a month or two, but some people suffer with shingles for several months.

It is believed by the medical community that the chicken pox virus hides in the nerve cells in children after they get over the illness. The virus hibernates and lies dormant until adulthood or the senior years and becomes active when the immune system becomes weakened for some reason.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

The symptoms of shingles include rash, pain, fever and blisters. An individual with shingles will feel burning pain on the surface of the skin for no apparent reason. The pain may occur on the chest, arms, trunk, face or buttocks. In a few days a red rash will occur in the area or areas where the burning sensation is being felt. A few days later blisters usually develop. The blisters can remain on the body up to 3 weeks.

The blisters usually start leaking after 3 weeks; you are most at risk for infection at this time. It will take longer for the blisters to heal if they become infected. If they don’t become infected, the blisters will begin to harden and fall off. You may experience both pain and itching in the areas where the blisters are located. During the time that you have the blisters, you may also have a low grade fever. You may also experience fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and vomiting and loose stools.

Can shingles occur anywhere else on the body?

It is quite rare, but some people develop shingles on their eyelids and on the eyes. If the disease develops right on the surface of the eyes, you could experience problems with eyesight and in very rare cases glaucoma could develop as a secondary condition. If you have shingles on your eyes your doctor should refer you to an ophthalmologist.

Who is at risk for getting shingles?

Because shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus, the people most at risk are teachers and nursing personnel. Nurses who work with children and teachers can be at risk for developing shingles because they are the most likely to be exposed to the virus. Children with chicken pox should not go to school if they have open blisters, because the herpes zoster virus lives in the blisters. Caregivers, having contact with children with open chicken pox blisters or adults with open shingles blisters need to wash their hands before and after having contact with them.

Individuals who have compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatments like chemo and radiation, as well as with medications such as steroids and immunosuppressant drugs are at risk of developing shingles if they ever had chicken pox as a child.

How is shingles treated?

Shingles is treated with antiviral medications. The doctor may suggest over-the-counter topical medications to be applied to the skin for itching. Steroids may be prescribed to held diminish the nerve pain, and over-the-counter pain meds such as Motrin and Tylenol may be suggested for minimal to moderate pain. If the pain continues to be moderate to severe, the doctor may order prescription pain meds. Aside from medication, the doctor may suggest cool compresses and cool baths to help relieve the pain and itch.

Can shingles be prevented?

If you have had the chicken pox when you were a child, you may not be able to prevent shingles from occurring later in life. The best thing to do is to vaccinate your children for chicken pox; vaccinating your children will protect anyone who has contact with them. Vaccinating your children will also protect them from developing shingles later on in life.

Adults and children with open blisters on their skin should be isolated as much as possible. Their bed linins and clothes should be washed alone; in other words, their laundry should not be mixed with the laundry of the other family members to prevent cross contamination.




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Comments (2)

this was a great to read, i had chicken pox as a child so this is something good to know. very glad to have read this.

Very nicely done, I remember when my grandmother had this, it is scary if it is ignored. Great job.